Bedazzling the bucket

The three contenders for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary got together Tuesday night to talk about the job and how they might make it a little more useful. Or a little less useless, perhaps.

The relatively powerless second-in-command is, as far as I know, an oddity of American politics. (Do other countries’ governments sport institutionalized appendices?) A heartbeat away from executive power, but trapped in an unglamorous treadmill of boredom famously dubbed “a bucket of warm piss” by one of its occupants.

You could say the lieutenant governorship is what you make it, but it’d be more accurate to say that it’s what other people let you make it. Peter Shumlin gave Phil Scott a seat in his Cabinet, a generous gesture that Scott has repaid by strenuously denouncing anyone who calls attention to it.

Still, at the very least, the office can be used as a bully pulpit. You can advocate for your causes. You can engage in backroom politics in the Senate, where you do wield a bit of authority. Or you can set off on a gimmicky, photo-op-friendly Jobs Tour.

Oh wait, that one’s been taken.

The three candidates’ images of the job, to a large extent, mirror their separate capabilities and interests.

David Zuckerman talked of “be[ing] an organizer… on critical issues” with “one foot inside the building and one foot outside.” Sounds painful.

But seriously, that’s what he is, and that’s what he’d bring to the job. He’d be an outsider with an inside seat.

Shap Smith, as befits his power broker performance as House Speaker, talks of the “soft influence” wielded by the lieutenant governor in the Statehouse, of relationships and coalition building.

Gee, it’d be awfully easy to draw a parallel between Bernie/Hillary and Zuckerman/Smith, wouldn’t it? The advocate and the dealmaker. The guy who wants to shake things up, and the guy who wants to help things shake out.

Meanwhile, Kesha Ram’s vision stems from her youth and seemingly boundless energy, not to mention her relative lack of experience. She’s got a truly transformational view of a job that would add a whole lot of dazzle to the bucket.

She sees herself as a “people’s advocate” with a “special hotline” for Vermonters to call. On the other hand, she sees the Lite-Guv as potentially a “visionary” who can look beyond putting out fires and short-term concerns. So, details plus broad overview?

She also sees the Lite-Guv as a “connector-in-chief” who brings people together to solve problems. Which, well, maybe, but without the assent of the executive, it’s hard to see the connector having much of an effect.

All in all, it seems an overly ambitious grab bag. But maybe that’s just me.

I still think that Zuckerman and Smith are the two real contenders. And they offer Vermonters a real choice. Do you want a rabble-rouser who Speaks Truth To Power? Do you want a skilled politico with moderately liberal views who can effectively work behind the scenes to get stuff done?

Zuckerman would make liberals feel better with bold, clear pronouncements. Smith would adopt a lower profile to avoid alienating colleagues toward the goal of building support for Democratic policies. Myself, I think Smith would get more done than Zuckerman. But then, I voted for Hillary.

Dr. Feelgood or The Fixer? You make the call.


4 thoughts on “Bedazzling the bucket

  1. newzjunqie

    Of course the left would like a more activist approach to LG, to toss a monkey-wrench in the purge. Gives Shapleigh Smith what he’s really running for — to maintain the vice-grip & influence of the epic-fail of Shummy agenda. Suspected this is what he was up to when passing on gov-run as he full well knows he could never escape the Shummy taint or the fact he has in fact acted as consigliore before & throughout Shumlin regime and would like nothing more than to keep a Dem foothold & continue to channel the pall of Shummys shadow in Montpelier.

    After listening to all three if voting left – Ram is my choice. She is the most hardworking, innovative, least politically-motivated & has a gift for noncontroversy such as when she rallied a consencus to iad in rapidly end the IWT food-fight once again proving herself a gifted politician. Could easily see her ably taking the reins as governor.

    We should be voting for someone who we could see as governor. Not a fan of nor do I vote gender politics, however VPO has given at least one sensible reason for doing so-the influence of a woman in cases of possible marginalization.

    Unfair VPO to be writing off Ram before the first vote is cast. Might be right however just makes her hard job even harder. With the right revenue stream she’d have the same chance as the others hope she surprises every everyone and wins.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Scott Milne would tell you that I don’t have the slightest ability to damage anyone’s campaign. I calls ’em as I sees ’em, and if a politician can’t overcome the speedbump of my prose, s/he was never going to win anyway.

    2. Redclover1965

      I disagree. I think Ram is the most politically motivated of all of them. To those who have seen her in the State House they know her goal is to rise and rise fast. I’m sorry but I don’t want a 29 year old Gov. Call me an “ageist” but come on… Zuckerman and Smith have experience and seem to not have sites on going to Washington. Shap is a Shumlin Lite and it irked me how he couldn’t even leave for 2 years and had to come back to the easier race. I will be voting for Zuckerman because he has integrity.

      1. newzjunqie

        Yeah you might be right-sort of. Personally find her refreshing & a true innovater who will do the business of the ppl. Definitely ambitious but see Ram as gifted & a problem solver who takes commitment to leadership seriously. Bernie should have hand edher some of that ching.

        Accesible & seems to genuinely care about making our state work better for all Vermonters. Tired of mere politicians who only seek office as lawmaker for own selfish reasons, prestige & influence. Do not see her as one of them.

        If seeking higher office, needs to start somewhere ascending thru the ranks gives work allows public visibility and opportunity for voters to get to know her, experience plus opportunity to learn & understand the varying functions of government. Of all ppl who I would like to see in higher office she is one of them.

        Go Kesha.

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